There's about one week to go until October, the time for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Both men and women should remind the women in their life to be aware and take care.
According to American Cancer Society (ACS) statistics, a woman currently living in the U.S. has a 12.3 percent (1 in 8) lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. The risk has gone up from 1 in 11 in the 1970s.
Research shows the increase can be the result of living longer, longterm hormone replacement therapies (HRT) and rising obesity rates.
"I've researched scientific information that now shows 70 percent of cancer incidence is environmental, while about 25 percent is genetic," said Dr. Veronica Waks, a naturopathic physician practicing in Fairfield County.
"The importance of environment means the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe."
When it comes to food and cancer prevention, Waks said to stay away from white flour and coloring agents.
"White flour has to go (because it's bleached) and try to eat foods free from herbicides and pesticides," she explained. "For those with family history of breast cancer, it is better to go with a vegetarian diet that is meat-free and dairy-free.
"When animals are given hormones, it deposits in their muscles. When we eat it, it is stored in our own body and that can stimulate the growth of cancer cells."
Spices thought to be preventative include turmeric and ginger, as well as extracts of mushroom (shitake) and broccoli.
"The extracts can decrease cancer growth. Look to eat cruciferous vegetables, like cabbage and Brussels sprouts, that are full of antioxidants," she said. "Vitamin-wise, you need antioxidants like Vitamin C, E and the mineral, selenium.
"Vitamin D has also been big on the news, with research showing it can help prevent cancers of the colon, prostate and breast," Waks added.
As for hydration and water intake, she recommends filtered water, free of dirt, bacteria and chlorine. For filtration, go with a reverse osmosis or carbon filter.
"When it comes to the air we breathe, that can be very difficult to deal with," Waks explained.
According to a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) study, the top indoor plants that help clean the air include: the bamboo palm (chamaedorea seifritzii); Chinese evergreen; English ivy; gerbera daisy; marginata, mother-in-law's tongue, pot mum (chrysantheium morifolium) and the peace lily.
Waks agreed with the national recommendation for women to get a baseline mammogram at age 40.
As written in her online blog, Waks said in her blog that "mammography is superior to the other imaging modalities in the depiction of tumor-associated micro-calcifications today," but more unbiased research is needed on whether there may be drawbacks.
She noted that X-ray radiation to the chest and neck area show a "tremendous increase in breast cancer incidence later in life."
She recommends two websites for self- knowledge. You can go to http://www.safety.duke.edu/radsafety/mammo_dose/default.asp to calculate the dose of radiation you receive when getting a mammogram and, for both men and women, go to http://www.ans.org/pi/resources/dosechart/ to calculate how much radiation you get annually from the environment and other procedures.
The ACS also reports other risk factors for women include smoking and reproductive hormone effects. They include early menarche, younger than 12-years-old; older age at menopause, above 55-years-old; older age at first full-term pregnancy, above 30 years, and fewer number of pregnancies.
ACS prevention tips include avoiding weight gain and obesity, engaging in regular physical activity, and minimizing alcohol intake.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has recommended against the routine use of hormone-replacement therapy (HRT) for the prevention of chronic diseases such as osteoporosis and heart disease in postmenopausal women; always consult with your personal physician.
For more information, go to www.drwaks.com (203-331-1490), go to www.cancer.org (American Cancer Society) and right here in Danbury go to www.annsplace.org, a non-profit agency providing resources for cancer survivors and their families.
n Did you know? Wear pink this month (yes, guys too!) to commemorate 25 years of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Laurie Leavy, a Danbury resident, is a certified fitness instructor, personal trainer and nutritionist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.